> In fact, humanoids are often easier prey than many other animals, and in many > cases may be preferred. Predators typically prefer to avoid other predators as a food source unless they're desperate, and most humanoids qualify as predators. In the case of intelligent predators vs intelligent predators, it's even more likely to be the case since they can anticipate the consequences.
It's all about the risks. From an ecological perspective, top predators (wolves, mountain lions) will regularly hunt and kill mesopredators (raccoons, coyotes) if there's an opportunity to do so. Predators never think "hmm, what does this animal eat? Meat? I'll leave it alone. Plants? DINNER!" Heck, some taxonomists classify dogs as wolf sub-species, and yet wolves will regularly eat unattended pets in areas where their range overlaps with human settlements. In fact, in poor, rural communities in Asia humans are regularly preyed on by tigers, despite the fact that humans are also predators, as you stated. In Africa, competition between lions and hyenas is almost legendary (packs of hyenas will kill lone or small groups of lions seemingly out of spite, and pride of lions will do the same to small/separated groups of hyenas).
I've read accounts of hungry wolves coming across healthy moose, and all it takes is one confident stare from the moose to convince the wolves to move along, this one's not worth the risk. Thus, the generalization that (top) predators don't eat other predators is mostly a result of the fact that they can put up more of a fight than, say, a deer.
Same rules apply to my Shifter fluff. They're not going to prey on armed guards near cities, or even farmers that might induce the wrath of armed guards. Unprepared, lightly armed travellers and merchants that don't realize they're in shifter territory would be prime targets. Also, smaller tribal groups of humans, elves, halflings, etc. would likely suffer regular casualties if said groups couldn't effectively mobilize to retaliate against a Shifter pack. Their niche wouldn't be unlike a herd of ungulates, always on the lookout for a big cat that could be lying in wait anywhere. It would be a situation not unlike that in those rural Asian towns that still suffer regular casualties from man-eating tigers.
Along the same topic, although humanoids are "the most dangerous prey", Dragonborn obviously do not typically eat them.
A man-eating tiger, though, is a prime example of a great dragonborn dinner!
Also, here's another:
12. Dragonborn do not understand racism, the concept of judging humanoids (barring evil races) by their looks rather than their actions strikes them as irrational. A primary example of this is the lack of enimity towards tieflings by most, even though in ages past they were bitter enemies. This could be influenced by the wide variety of dragonborn scale colorations and that they do not correspond to anything significant (i.e. breath weapon type).
13. Tieflings are driven by an ambition and drive for power, in whatever form, so deep rooted in their psyche, they often seem obsessed to the point of nothing else. That Wizard who plunders ancient crypts and tombs in search of lore, the Rogue who brutally murders his way to the top of the local thieves guild, the son of a local baron, who beds any woman of interest, in hopes of aquiring useful knowledge about politics, or the merchant who braves the winter snow, to the shock and amazement of his colleagues.
This isn't to say they're ruthless, though many are. Many often have morals akin to other humanoid races, especially ones raised among another race, however they are simply far more driven than you're average individual. Whereas a Human Paladin may take it upon himself eliminate the threat of goblin raiders near a village, the Tiefling will wipe out the entire tribe. That Halfling Assassin who kills cleanly and never leaves a trace, whereas the Tiefling leaves a message, he ensures everyone knows who committed the deed, so all know who he is, and what he's capable of.
This drive for power, and the accompanying success often makes them targets of retaliation, theft, or conspiracy. Coupled with their devilish appearance and a childhood often marked by prejudice, they are deeply suspicious of others. This often results in paranoia, that anyone who attempts to get close to them is only after their secrets, mercantile contacts, or other avenue to success and power. Getting close to a Tiefling is often near impossible, but when one does, they become exceptionally loyal, and often protective. Whether this is because they are so unused to friendship that they grasp onto any genuine relationship, or because they wish to manipulate and use the other party depends on the individual in question.
Trap making is an art to kobolds as much as painting is to elves or humans. The children sometimes (though not often) lose fingers trying to make more and more complicated traps. While the best of these will go one to set traps that will maim and kill invaders of the warrens, some delight in making fun little 'trick' traps.
Nothing sets the little yappers laughing like finally getting that one guy's mother-in-law with the paste trap...except, maybe, watching the mother-in-law get revenge.
Dwarves are hardworkers who do not give up on their endeavors. A dwarf would rather build a machine that fails twenty times to make a better one than give up and buy something that will work better than the final product. They're stubborn, but they're able. Craftmanship is something as admired in their society as mastery of warfare or healing magic.
Elves are more practical than some races, given their disconnection from extensive, trade supported civilizations. Stealing something is punishable most often by equivalent reparations. The theft, destruction, or waste of vital quantities (such as food, water, medicine), however, is treated much more strictly. Indentured servitude or even the use of geas magic has been justified in some cases.
Execution is very rarely quick and most often reserved for the highest offenses (treason, mass-murder, etc). Very often, the punishment fits the crime (someone who let his family starve when he ate well will be pinned to a tree and left to die while someone eats in front of him).
Among the races, they are the most likely to worship and protect spirits of the trees and nature. More often than not, one can find trees with fancy trimmings and adornments that contain a Dryad. This may seem ignorant to outsiders, but it makes more sense to them than anything else.
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Dwarves are slaves to dwarven protocol. In Dwarven society there are rules for everything, and these rules are not to be bent or broken. The rules are not codified anywhere, but are passed on by society as a whole. No explanation is given, no reasoning required, these rules just ARE. "This is the way we have always done it." This is why dwarves seem stubborn and almost brash in their decision making, it's just that the right course of action is already *known* by the Dwarf, why would any one question it. Dwarves don't have large discussions about things, as that is a waste of time, everyone knows what to do in a given situation.
However, there are exceptions to the rule structure. Most of these occur while drinking. If a Dwarf is drinking or drunk, or even simply in a tavern, these rules can be put aside and dwarves are allowed to speak and act freely. This is where the dwarves get their reputation as a rowdy, heavy drinking race.
For example, when you approach a door, there are three options; If it's a friend, knock and walk in. If it's a stranger, knock and wait a few moments before entering. If an enemy, knock the door down. All door openings fall within these three options, it's just a matter of which option to follow. It doesn't matter if its the royal chambers of a King, or the front door of an inn. It may look like impatience or like "barging in", but it's the only available option.
Rule breakers are corrected and persistent rule breakers are shunned. It is every Dwarfs responsibility to work together to make sure that everyone follows the rules.
"The nail that sticks up, gets hammered down." would be a good summery of how societal rules are enforced.
Anyone want to give some more monsters a go? The kobolds were great!
18. While telepathic verbalisation is more than adequate for purposes of communication, illithids find it dissatisfying and unreliable in matters of even minor importance. The carefully-chosen, deliberately-broadcast thoughts of telepathy lack genuine emotion or content, and are just as potentially false as the carefully-chosen, deliberately-spoken words of more mundane language. To a race for whom thoughts themselves are a kind of food, telepathy is a thin, tasteless substitute for vital, nourishing thoughts. To an illithid, the only thoughts truly worth hearing are those backed by powerful emotion and sensation.
It is for this reason that torture is, to mind flayers, a social convention which borders upon the casual. Agony and terror are the easiest strong emotions for them to elicit, and they have no qualms whatsoever about doing so purely for the sake of enlivening psionic discourse. A mind flayer does not torture a victim in order to coerce their honesty with a promise of the pain's cessation; rather, a mind flayer does it so that the pain and anguish surging through the victim's mind will let the mind flayer really taste those words. Simple psionic speech lacks flavour, context, or meaning. The ragged surge of torturous agony, on the other hand, fills those mental words with vitality, with substance, and allows the truth or falseness of them to be 'tasted' as clearly as you or I taste salt or sugar.
This is not merely a test of veracity, however. An illithid being given an account of an event might wish to afflict the storyteller in order to give the tale a more visceral and 'real' feeling. In the illithid view, a subject is not truly speaking unless zie is screaming. There are even elaborate psionic patterns -- approximately their version of poetry or song -- based entirely upon the specific agonies inflicted upon the performer. An illithid bard is a rare beast indeed and occupies a far different place in society from the carefree entertainers of our culture.
Obviously, this torture is a one-way street in the hierarchies of illithids; one does not torture one's superior to enrich the conversation, one demonstrates one's obedience by receiving such torture. It's fairly common for an illithid to self-inflict pain, either through physical harm or psionic stimulus, in order to emphasize a particularly important statement, though truly powerful mind flayers will inflict agony upon someone else and psionically use that victim's suffering to bolster their own words.
(I employ zie/zie/zir as a gender-neutral counterpart to he/him/his. Just a heads-up.)
Essentials definitely isn't for me as a player, and I feel that its design and implementation bear serious flaws which fill me with concern for the future of D&D, but I've come to the conclusion that it isn't going to destroy the game that I want to play. Indeed, I think that I could probably run a game for players using Essentials characters without it being much of a problem at all. Time will tell, I suppose.
19. Elves live long. When you think about it, it's huge. Absolutely huge. A single Elf could easily witness the rise and fall of a grand empire or two, and generations of humans. Coupled with the druidic tendencies of Elven society, some weird perspectives are bound to come up. One of these would logically be the belief that nothing manmade (or elfmade, etc. etc.) lasts. Everything but the world itself and it's great spirits is fleeting, eventually crushed by time and nature. Getting to know such a person could be quite disturbing for a human.
21. Hobgoblin honor is highly individualistic and competitive. Civilized races in their lands have trouble understanding the fine line between committing a capital crime and merely attacking the honor of your rivals. Hobgoblin sergeants and warlords will steal valuable items, ambush lackeys in the streets, hire courtesans to embarrass their hosts, and conduct spontaneous duels with each other simply to establish who is the more honorable warrior. Honor must be defended at all times, and moments of weakness are carefully hidden. While some other races have similar cutthroat rivalries and moments of sabotage, what sets hobgoblins apart is how brazen and open they act about it. Use of subtlety to hobgoblins suggests an unwillingness to take responsibility for your enemy's fall in honor - something that is both despicable and suspicious. Hobgoblins instead parade their successes in front of their peers. Crimes committed in the name of honor are likewise unpunished in hobgoblin society, as long as no permanent losses are accrued.
In reverse, hobgoblins tend to be disgusted at the political intrigue of other nations. The nobility of other races seem without honor in their unwillingness to take up the mantle of their accomplishments, and their motives equally suspect. Moreso, the seriousness of which such deeds are played out among non-goblins is appalling. Death is reserved for mortal enemies and the weak; it should not be applied to your neighbor just because you both bid for the same title. It is as though other races can only advance through their lands as spineless whelps that can only focus on doing their jobs, or snakes that would as soon see their rivals dead or utterly destroyed - and to hobgoblins, neither path is redeemable.